Rainier: Nisqually Ice Fall

As we cleared the ice fall I could tell that I was starting to come down with HAPE (high altitude pulmonary edema). In this picture at about 13,000 feet near the top of the ice fall my expression shows I'm already a bit unhappy (the white on my nose and cheeks is clown white makeup). We certainly did not want to descend the ice fall and the terrain does not permit an easy traverse back to Camp Muir* – consider trying to traverse right from our route shown in this picture. Traversing left and down would put us around the mountain and miles from any help. We had no viable choice but to continue the planned route to the summit and down the Ingraham (aka tourist) route back to Camp Muir; this would have the added advantage of putting us in contact with other climbers (and potential help) more quickly. I trudged on the remaining 1,400 feet vertical to the summit, gasping for breath and getting worse by the minute. After we had traversed the summit and descended to Camp Muir I collapsed in the snow as everyone else packed up tents and sleeping bags, taking most of my gear into their packs.

The mountain in the distance is Mount Saint Helens, pre-eruption.